Monday, June 18, 2018
Editorials

Add code enforcement to stem Pasco blight

The County Commission must decide what kind of county it wants Pasco to be. Its business plan says Pasco will be Florida's premier county, but its elected leaders act that way only if somebody else is picking up the tab.

Presented with a proposed county budget for 2014 last week, three commissioners immediately axed the very first initiative — adding four code enforcement officers to bolster the aesthetic appearance of the county and to help clean up residential neighborhoods and commercial districts. The proposed cost of less than $300,000 would have come from local property taxes.

A few minutes later, the commission allocated $373,566 in federal money to begin a wide-ranging effort to rehabilitate the Shamrock Heights and Uni-Ville subdivisions near U.S. 19 and Trouble Creed Road in west Pasco. Of the 294 homes there, only 108 are homeowner occupied and many are in foreclosure or abandoned. The multi-year project will use U.S. dollars for infrastructure and federal and state money for housing upgrades.

The commission's positions are contradictory. The redevelopment of west Pasco's deteriorating residential areas is a laudable project to enhance the affordable housing stock and to try to improve property values. Yet, failing to upgrade the county's investment in code enforcement makes it more likely blight will accelerate in older neighborhoods.

The proposed county budget, which included a 9 percent increase in the general fund tax rate, called for rebuilding the county's code enforcement division which has shrunk from 24 to 14 officers over the past six years.

The four new officers would have been assigned to do proactive enforcement, rather than answering customer complaints. They were expected to handle a minimum of 4,400 cases annually.

Code enforcement focuses on eyesores — abandoned cars, trash, overgrown lots, piles of junk tires — that can signal a residential area's potential deterioration, reduced property values and increased crime. The plan called for seeking voluntary compliance, rather than writing citations and starting formal enforcement proceedings.

"Our appearance scores are very low. This is one of our major issues. Bad reputation,'' Assistant County Administrator Heather Grimes told commissioners last month.

Indeed. Commissioner Henry Wilson endorsed the idea during a June workshop, but he was overruled last week when Commissioners Pat Mulieri, Ted Schrader and Jack Mariano balked at the expense. Mulieri questioned the focus on cleaning up neighborhoods if low-income residents can't afford the tipping fees charged at the county landfill.

Her logic is misguided. Instead of tolerating a trashy appearance, commissioners would be wise to add the code enforcement officers and to set aside a modest pool of money to help defray the costs of neighborhood cleanups.

That's what a premier county would do.

Comments
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18